Bangkok - skyscrapers, contrasts and iguanas

This year, between March and April, I was on tour in Asia with my pianist, Valentina Vargiu (Duo Aspera). We have visited and performed in 8 countries in 4 weeks: Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Japan, South Korea and China. In the next weeks my blog posts will be dedicated to this overwhelming experience intertwined with some tips, advices and errors I did that you can easily avoid. So let’s start off with the first city we’ve visited – Bangkok.

It was the first time I was taking an intercontinental flight and the day of the departure seemed unreal, I kept on thinking: “Am I really doing this? Am I really going to Thailand?” These thoughts stopped only when I was on the plane. We flew to Bangkok from Vienna with Thai Airways. The price was reasonable (380 Euros one-way), but you can trust me when I say it was the best flight I ever took in my life! The seats were comfortable with lots of space between them, the food was great, the choice of entertainment was huge, the flight attendants were super welcoming and courteous, and the bathroom was clean and had even a cologne for the use of the passengers. The best part was that the flight was not full so you could lie down on three seats and sleep all the way to Bangkok, a 10-hour flight.

When we set foot off the plane at 5 AM local time the difference between Vienna and our destination was more than evident - “The HEAT!! The HUMIDITY!!”. We went on to the passport control. Needless to say, but it is better to remind it, check the entry requirements to the country of your destination and whether you need a visa or not! As an Italian citizen Valentina required only her passport, she received a stamp and went through. As a Romanian citizen, I needed a visa, which, luckily, could be done upon arrival. So here are the first tips:

Tip #1: check well in advance the entry requirements for the country of your destination. Normally the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country has a page dedicated to the topic. If you need a visa, make sure to apply for it well in advance. If you only need to fill in a form and bring it with you, do so. It is highly probable that you will not find the needed form easily upon arrival at your destination. Also bring some spare passport size photos with you, you might need them.

Tip #2: bring some cash with you. The visa costs around 2000 Thai Baht (around 50 Euros) and you have to pay for it on the spot, no cards are accepted. So bring along around 100 Euros, there are currency exchange offices but no ATM’s.

Here is the story behind the second tip: I did not manage to take some cash off my card before leaving Vienna thinking that an international airport in Bangkok will be full of ATM’s. Therefore, I had only about 40 Euros with me. When I was told that there was an ATM on the second floor of the airport and was given 3 different directions from 3 different people working at the airport I decided to reach Valentina before she passed the controls and to borrow 50 Euros from her.